False alarm: The government is now leaning toward leaving in place the state of emergency declared in 10 prefectures, at least for this week, media reports said Wednesday, rather than lifting it in three of them, writes Satoshi Sugiyama.

The government was considering lifting the declaration early in Aichi, Gifu and Fukuoka prefectures. But government officials are apparently still worried that hospitals are being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, and the situation needs to improve before they can ease the restrictions.

A record 121 new deaths linked to the coronavirus were reported across the country on Wednesday, even as the country reported only 1,887 new infections, marking the fourth straight day below 2,000.

Japan to start COVID vaccines despite syringe shortage | FRANCE 24 ENGLISH
Japan to start COVID vaccines despite syringe shortage | FRANCE 24 ENGLISH

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is concerned that despite the ongoing emergency, daytime foot traffic at major rail stations is still high. In a bid to guilt people into staying home, 10 digital screens have been set up at Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Shibuya and Shimbashi stations displaying changes in pedestrian traffic compared to the good old pre-COVID-19 days.

On a more positive note, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that the first coronavirus vaccinations in Japan will be given in the middle of next week, with medical workers expected to be the lucky recipients.

Wednesday’s (and last Wednesday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (40 or over): Tokyo 491 (676), Kanagawa 176 (234), Saitama 169 (257), Chiba 145 (218), Osaka 127 (244), Aichi 114 (114), Fukuoka 103 (119), Hyogo 94 (120), Hokkaido 64 (94), Aomori 40 (6). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker